Sustainability, workforce engagement, and culture: why it matters

updated on 21 July 2021

As a business owner, sustainability professional, or even a people & culture leader, you've no doubt noticed the explosive rise of sustainability as a focus area for businesses.

From largely peripheral and compliance-focused activities, sustainability has transformed to become its own department; one that is increasingly a strategic concern with implications across all parts of the business.

Which begs the question: how do employees fit into this, and why does that matter? 

In this post, we explore this link between sustainability, workforce engagement, and culture - and why now is the time to sit up and pay attention.

<b> Business Sustainability has come a long way; from the dawn of the environmental movement and regulations in the 70’s, to now becoming a key strategic concern driven by market forces.</b>
 Business Sustainability has come a long way; from the dawn of the environmental movement and regulations in the 70’s, to now becoming a key strategic concern driven by market forces.

We are at a critical point in history. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into a new working paradigm; one that has accelerated the adoption of technology and distributed workforces. With such disruption, employee experience and attracting + retaining talent has rightly risen to the top of employer concerns. 

At the same time, workforces themselves are changing. People are becoming more concerned about sustainability crises like climate change, and want to use their careers as a way to make a positive impact. 70% of millennials, a generation that will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025, prioritise sustainability over other factors when determining the attractiveness of a job, and 88% actively look for ways to help their company become more sustainable.

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When you consider that 80% of all employees are not engaged at work (costing employers approximately $500 billion in lost productivity and time every year), and that sustainability is one of the highest requested employee programs, this link is stronger than it has ever been. Given the scale of these numbers, even a small increase in engagement could result in substantial boosts in revenue growth through improved employee performance.

Think that these numbers have been lessened by COVID-19? Think again. In Deloitte’s 2020 Global Millennial Survey, about 75% of respondents said COVID-19 has "brought about an even stronger sense of individual responsibility" and they "...intend to take actions to have a positive impact on their communities."

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All of this has an impact on the culture of the organisation, which has 'ripple effects' on things like talent acquisition and retention, productivity, and brand reputation. Just look at Unilever; after Google and Apple, it is the third most searched for company on LinkedIn, with one of the strongest employer brands in the world. Given they’re not a 'cool tech company' (in fact, they produce rather unsexy household goods), this is particularly impressive. Their focus on achieving their purpose (to make sustainable living commonplace) and embedding sustainability into everything they do, resonates strongly with current and potential employees. 

Not every company can be as ambitious as Unilever, but simply providing employees with a clear way to understand, experience, and contribute towards sustainability in your organisation has key workplace engagement and culture benefits; which translates to meaningful business outcomes.

We started SeedCulture as a way to inspire sustainability action in individuals and organisations. We help businesses 'sow the seeds' for a culture that is centered around sustainability, empowering employees to take action as individuals and a collective team.

Interested in learning more? Request a demo today.

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